Power of the Nexus: HR and the Future

A nexus is a means of connecting members of a group or elements that collectively produce a desired result or outcome.   Most of us as human resource professionals deal with the interaction of various people, process, and business forces on a regular basis.  This combination of organizational elements forms the basis of the nexus responsible for our business success.  Over the last several decades, it has become more important for human resource professionals to understand not just the laws that govern the employer-employee relationship or how to maximize our human capital, but how to fit all the pieces together.

I conducted a session with a group of human resource professionals last month to discuss the future of the profession.  After we lamented the realities of being in human resources when organizations continue to struggle financially, we moved on to what the future might hold.  Most agreed that one of the exciting things about human resources is that it is a young, yet growing field.  As we identified potential opportunities for growth in assisting with strategy as well as operations, most of the attendees started to talk about what would be helpful for them to know to add more value in the future.

There were three core areas that the group identified as critical for dealing with the complexities of the nexus in the future:

  • Operational processes
  • Resource allocation
  • Human dynamic

Operational Processes

Although there is some recognition that human resource professionals possess a unique perspective of understanding what people in their organization do, many organizations have failed to tap into the depth of their knowledge.  As this trend changes, it is critical that human resource staff gain more detailed knowledge of how people interact with the processes related to their job.  In other words, it is one thing to know how many people perform each task and another to know how well the tasks produce optimal outcomes.  The best way to add value in this area is to build on current knowledge of how specific departments or functions operate, make staffing decisions, organize work, and conduct their work.

Resource Allocation

The modern work place with its propensity for change is full of opportunities to find better ways to allocate resources.  Increasingly, human resource staff is being asked to come up with solutions to “do more with less.”  Although there is a history of human resources assisting with reductions in force by determining who and delivering the news, there is an increasing trend of actually including human resources in determining how organizations could be more cost effective and allocate resources in a more efficient manner.  Consequently, understanding budgets, how return on investment works, and tools for alternative analysis are critical skills for the future.

Human Dynamic

As human resource professionals, we are considered the people that understand people the most.  Outside of a subset of talented leaders, human resource staff normally has the best understanding of human behavior.  This foundation provides a great advantage for understanding motivation, engagement, and performance, but needs to be continually built on over time.  During the session mentioned above, an attendee mentioned that it was typical to “feel like a psychologist in the past and now you need to be psychologist, career counselor, and life coach.”  In order to be effective in the future, it is critical that human resource professionals gain a more detailed understanding of what people want, what motivates them, and how each of us can perform to our full potential.

At first glance, the above list appears to be pieces of different puzzles and not the same puzzle.  However, when we consider the complex nature of supporting success in our organizations, the nexus of specific operational knowledge, financial expertise, and human behavior provides a solid foundation for increasing value.

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